The health benefits of breast feeding typically focus -- for good reason -- on the health of the child. Everything from lower obesity rates to lower rates of asthma have been attributed to breast-feeding and other good nutritional habits early in life.
A new study out of the University of Pittsburgh points to another benefit: a healthier heart -- and perhaps a longer life -- for mom.
The longer women breasfeed, according to the study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, the lower their risk of heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women.
"Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, so it's vitally important for us to know what we can do to protect ourselves," said Dr. Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, author of the study. "We have known for years that breastfeeding is important for babies' health; we now know that it is important for mothers' health as well."
Here's how the university described the study:
According to the study, postmenopausal women who breastfed for at least one month had lower rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, all known to cause heart disease. Women who had breastfed their babies for more than a year were 10 percent less likely to have had a heart attack, stroke, or developed heart disease than women who had never breastfed.
Dr. Schwarz and colleagues found that the benefits from breastfeeding were long-term ― an average of 35 years had passed since women enrolled in the study had last breastfed an infant.
The findings are based on 139,681 postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative study of chronic disease, initiated in 1994.
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